The making of Hong Kong’s famous ‘fire dragon’

1 (645 x 430)Thousands of festival-goers packed a historic neighbourhood of Hong Kong to watch a “fire dragon” lit with incense sticks dance through the streets in a century-old ritual, reports BSS.

The 67-metre (220-foot) long dragon snakes around the network of narrow paths in the village of Tai Hang each year to the sound of roaring drums, and is one of the highlights of the celebrations for Wednesday’s mid-autumn festival. Around 300 performers carry the dragon through the neighbourhood for three consecutive evenings as it billows smoke, shaking and dipping its head and tail to the beat of the drums.
Only men — former and current Tai Hang residents of all ages — can be part of the dragon’s body, but in recent years women have cracked through the all-male spectacle to become lead drummers. The tradition is said to have started around 1880, after the once sleepy coastal village was hit by a typhoon, followed by a plague. Desperate to change its fortunes, villagers created a “fire dragon” and paraded it for three days and three nights, chasing away the plague, according to local lore.
After years of land reclamation and gentrification, Tai Hang now lies inland from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour and is home to upmarket restaurants and luxury condominiums, though a flavour of the old days remains.
“The community now is very different. Many old residents have left the neighbourhood. The mid-autumn festival every year is a good opportunity for all of us old residents to have a gathering,” said Cheung Kwok-ho.
A Tai Hang native, Cheung is a maker of the dragon, planted with tens of thousands of burning incense sticks during the festival — now on China’s list of intangible cultural heritage.


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